Posthatching parental care is known in amphibians for frogs and caecilians but, thus far, has never been reported for salamanders. Here, we describe the parental behavior of a female Northwest Italian Cave Salamander, Speleomantes strinatii, from egg deposition to nest site abandonment. The female was kept in seminatural conditions and filmed in complete darkness by an infrared video camera. In November 2007, the female laid nine eggs in a small depression of the terrarium floor, displaced the clutch with hind limbs, and showed antipredator behaviors toward a conspecific female and an intruding Roof Rat (Rattus rattus). During egg brooding, the female remained in contact with the clutch for about 98% of the time. In September 2008, two young hatched and shared the nesting site for six weeks with the female, which attended the nesting site for 87% of the time. Hatchlings repeatedly climbed over the female's body, lying on her for hours. The female walked out of the nesting site with a young on its back twice. These prolonged skin contacts between parent and offspring should be considered as the first certain case of young attendance in salamanders. This behavior may be related to increased survival of hatchlings during their first weeks of life, when young are particularly vulnerable to predation, skin infection, and dehydration.
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Vol. 44 • No. 4